Former Kansas basketball guard and fan favorite Jerod Haase, who went 42-0 as a player in Allen Fieldhouse from 1994-97, on Saturday returns to KU’s tradition-rich building — this time as visiting head coach.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet. I know it will be emotional. Hopefully I can get the team and myself to stay focused at the task at hand, (but) the number of memories and feelings about that place for me … it’s not possible to put into words. It will be exciting from that standpoint,” Haase said.
His first Stanford Cardinal team is off to a 6-2 start heading into a 2:30 p.m. tip against the No. 4-ranked (6-1) Jayhawks that will be shown live on ESPN.
“In terms of playing the game, there’s not as much excitement with that,” Haase added, with a laugh, acknowledging the difficulty for anybody playing the Jayhawks.
To media and fans, Saturday’s proceedings may focus as much or more on the 42-year-old Haase than the game. He’s No. 32 on KU’s all-time leading-scorer list, No. 18 in career assists and No. 11 in steals and threes made.
The gritty South Lake Tahoe, Calif., native, who played much of his senior season with a broken wrist, figures to receive a thunderous ovation from the fans during pregame introductions.
“Unfortunately the reaction will be he’ll be the most-loved head coach in the building, so that’ll (stink),” KU coach Bill Self jokingly said.
“I am pretty sure that’s not going to be the case, but that’s nice of him to say,” responded Haase, an Academic All-American who earned a degree in business administration in 1997 and an MBA, also from KU, in 2000.
“He was a tremendous player and popular player here when he played and then of course helped recruit some really good teams after he played (as a member of Roy Williams’ staff from 1999-2003),” Self said. “And he’s done a really good job after he left here to go to North Carolina (as assistant) and UAB (four years as head coach) and now Stanford. Whatever ovation or response that Jerod gets from a positive standpoint is one which he richly deserves, and I would hope that our fans do treat him right before the game, and then let’s not get carried away after the game starts.
“I think it would be really cool for his players to see how well he’s been received. I think that would be pretty cool for him,” Self added.
Cal transfer Haase was so beloved at KU — where he started 99 of 101 games in three seasons — he wrote a book about his playing days that was a huge success. The book, titled, “Floor Burns,” referenced a stat created by KU media relations officials in response to Haase’s propensity to dive on the floor for loose balls.
“That’s the cool part about Kansas,” Haase said. “There are so many beloved players. I don’t know if ‘beloved’ is the right word (for himself). I know I love Kansas and loved my time there.”
Haase will be accompanied on this trip by wife Mindy, who is from Lenexa, and their three children — Gavin (10), Garrett (7) and Gabrielle (4). There won’t be much time to tour the fieldhouse or visit with former friends, however. Stanford’s team, which opened the season with a victory over Harvard in China (a 6,000-mile trip) and also has played three games in Florida (wins over Seton Hall and Indiana State, a loss to Miami) is scheduled to arrive at 7 p.m. Friday and will not practice that evening.
“It’s been a long time, probably at least 12 years,” Haase said of the last time he “poked his head” into Allen. “I’ve been back in Lawrence a couple times to recruit during the summer. I don’t know if I’ve been in the fieldhouse in quite a while.”
His experiences in Allen have all been good ones, having never experienced the agony of defeat as a player.
“I take a huge amount of pride in that. We had a lot of good teams, but to never lose in Allen Fieldhouse is a pretty special deal,” Haase said. “Our senior year, there were so many bigger stories that year, it was not one of the main stories or main focuses. We had such a remarkable team, that was just a little byproduct.”
The Jayhawks went 34-2 Haase’s senior year, losing only to Missouri, 96-94, in double overtime in Columbia, and Arizona, 85-82, in the Sweet 16 in Birmingham, Ala, where Haase many years later went on to coach UAB to a 80-53 record in his four seasons.
Haase never complained about the fractured scaphoid bone in his right hand during his senior season.
“Not well enough, otherwise we would have won a national championship,” Haase said when asked how a person can play with a broken wrist on his shooting hand. “It wasn’t like I was in pain every second of every day”
He only revealed the break to the media when it became obvious after the MU game that his wrist was bothering him.
“One of our core values as I take the job at Stanford is investment. Everyone on that team, coaching staff, players, managers would have done everything humanly possible to help the team. I was able to play on it. That’s what I did.”
He said his goal as a head coach is for his team each year to “be invested, tough and selfless.”
At UAB it resulted in a regular-season Conference USA title last season, a league tourney title the year before and victory over Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I have really enjoyed being a head coach,” Haase said. “I’ve enjoyed putting my stamp on UAB’s program and trying to put my stamp here on a Stanford program that reflects my goals and ideals. To this point I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that.
“We love it here,” he added of Stanford, Calif. “It’s really a unique place. I love the people I work with. The staff and team are off the charts, being around them every day. Stanford as a university has so many positives. Quality of life, everything, it’s really a wonderful place.”
Ditto Lawrence, he says.
“I don’t know. It’s a better question to ask me after the game,” he said of his feelings entering his homecoming. “We’ll be focused on the game and our team. I know that part of it.”
Yet he acknowledged he would be “touched,” if as Self suggested, the fans welcome him with a nice greeting.
“For sure. Yeah, no question, no question,” Haase said.
Senior forward Landen Lucas (oblique strain) was to be held out of practice Thursday and is listed day-to-day heading into Saturday’s game.